Vauxhall Adam vs Citroen DS3

  • Stylish small cars compared
  • DS3 and Adam rated in every area
  • Best buys revealed - and those to avoid
Words By Ed Callow

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The Citroen DS3 and Vauxhall Adam offer you plenty of style for your money, and their cabins are well equipped and full of eye-catching materials.

The Adam is cheaper than the DS3 as an entry-level model, but the Citroen is the larger car. Which is better?

What are the Citroen DS3 and Vauxhall Adam like to drive?

Neither the Adam nor the DS3 handle as well as the Mini, but both are nimble around town. It's at higher speeds that they struggle; the Adam's steering is disconcertingly light and the DS3's feels a bit vague.

You also have to put up with a rather firm, unsettled ride in both cars, while the Adam's – with the optional sports suspension and 18-inch wheels – is downright uncomfortable. At least THP versions of the DS3 reward you with tight body control, giving them the edge over the sportier Adams.

As for engines, the 86bhp 1.4-litre petrol in the Adam pulls well enough when you work it hard, while the 118bhp and 154bhp engines in the DS3 both feel pretty potent. Vauxhall has no plans to offer a diesel engine to Adam buyers, but the Citroen has a choice of two diesels with either 89bhp or 113bhp.

The lower-powered petrols in both cars drone noisly in top gear at motorway speeds, whereas more powerful DS3s are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox that keeps them hushed on the motorway.

Both cars keep wind noise to a minimum, too, but the DS3 lets in a lot of road noise if it's fitted with 17-inch wheels.

Can I get an automatic Citroen DS3 or Vauxhall Adam?

The 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine in the DS3 is available with a four-speed automatic 'box, but there’s no automatic option on the Adam.

What are the Citroen DS3 and Vauxhall Adam like inside?

Both cars' dashboards feature classy materials, while the switchgear is simple and the infotainment systems reasonably intuitive.

The Adam has the better driving position, though, offering a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment and good visibility. You sit farther back from the windscreen in the DS3, and it has offset pedals that can cause discomfort.

Both cars are available only as three-door models, which means access to the rear seats could be better. That said, there’s enough room in the back of the DS3 for two adults, so it's a more practical option than the Adam, where even small children will feel cramped.

The Adam's boot is equally disappointing; its 171-litre capacity is beaten by most city cars, not to mention the 285 litres you get in the DS3.

At least the Adam gives you plenty of equipment for your money. Every model comes with air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a digital radio, all of which are missing from the entry-level DS3. Adam buyers are also offered a huge range of personalisation options, including roof colours, wheels and interior trim.

Which one should I buy?

Neither car here is a class leader, but it’s the Citroen DS3 that represents the better value for money. It offers more space for both passengers and luggage, as well as a ride that’s that bit more composed around town and at speed.

Rather than recommend the cheapest entry-level car, our pick of the DS3 range is actually the 1.6-litre THP DSport. It’s a stylish and well-equipped supermini that delivers hot hatch pace and decent handling.

If you’re absolutely set on buying an Adam, we’d recommend steering clear of the optional sports suspension and larger wheels; both worsen an already unsettled ride. We would also suggest going easy on the personalisation front, because it’s all too easy to pick some outlandish colour and trim combinations that are likely to have a negative effect come resale time.

For company car users, or those doing higher mileages, the DS3 also makes the most sense. The lack of a diesel Adam counts against it here, as does the fact that the cleanest model still emits 118g/km of CO2; both diesels in the DS3 squeeze under the 100g/km tax threshold.

Be sure to check the What Car? Target Price before you visit a dealer, and be prepared to haggle for a better discount. While the Adam has the lower list price, there are savings of around Β£1000 on even the cheapest DS3.